Although it seems like a lifetime, it wasn’t too long ago that concepts like lockdown and quarantine were reserved for made-for-TV disaster movies. Social distancing was the bailiwick of bird watchers, and walking a few hundred yards to the car in the mall parking lot was akin to traversing the Appalachian Trail.
Fast forward to spring 2020.
As the novel coronavirus continued its deadly race around the world, we paced our homes, longing for a small breath of fresh air, to walk and run and play in a world not enclosed by four walls. We realized our bond to the natural world was an integral part of life, one that could nourish and sustain us not just physically but emotionally, as well.
This newly embraced philosophy is the inspiration for “Earthbond,” the current art exhibit at the Bridgewater Lofts condominiums in the eastern loop of downtown Minneapolis. Running through September 12, the exhibit features nine artists whose subject matter and/or working materials have a direct connection to nature.
“Although we’ve been hosting exhibits for several years now, we knew it was going to be challenging to mount a new show under the Governor’s stay-at-home orders,” stated Bridgewater Friends of the Arts Co-Chair Dianne Walsh. “We also knew that having art throughout the building was going to be critical to maintaining a positive outlook and keeping beauty in our lives. We were pleased to find artists who were willing to participate, even as they and their peers were withdrawing to their personal spaces.”
Moira Bateman (moirabateman.com) is an artist whose affinity for the natural world expresses itself in the abstract. She notes: “It is important to me that I give some control of my artistic process away to nature.” She often will go to “wild places” to gather raw materials for her works. Her “Flow” series, which has been shown in the Bowery Gallery in Chelsea, NYC, utilizes beeswax and hand stitched silk fabric that has been stained using tannins and sediment from natural waterways.
Fiber sculptor Barbara Riegel Bend’s (barbbend.com) creative use of reclaimed zippers is well known to her friends and followers, and she is never without an ample supply to use in her three-dimensional art. Her pieces range from the whimsical “Little Fish Sticks” with their charming button eyes to the churning shoreline waters captured in “River Rocks”.
Another artist who has turned recycling into an art form is Heather M. Cole (designHMC.com). Her interest is in transformation, “both the concept of changing or having a new purpose and the physical change from one thing to another.” In the case of her ethereal yet highly functional lighting designs, we can certainly say that the plastic milk jug never looked quite so chic.
Kathleen Krishan (kathleenkrishan.com) was originally a plein air painter, documenting her subjects directly in nature (think Renoir or Monet). Today, her camera is a critical tool, allowing her to capture nature verbatim and letting those photos launch her into a “visual memory” or “invention” to be translated to canvas. Krishan, a lifelong nature walker, feels that her work exudes a sense of déjà vu. “I hope my paintings elicit this type of response for anyone who views them, conjuring their own personal memories.”
The mediums of choice for metalsmith Jane Driess (itsjanellc.com) and jewelry designers Megan Wiley (soliddesignstudios.com) and Kristen Iburg-Meyer (elementsbyk.com) aren’t paint, fabric or canvas but hard and unforgiving elements that are literally pulled from the earth itself. In their skilled hands, silver, gold, iron and semi-precious stones are transformed into functional, wearable art. Dries’s “It’s Jane” line includes the hand-hammered sliver shot glasses and serving pieces now on display in the Bridgewater exhibit along with Wiley and Iburg-Meyer’s bracelets, necklaces and pendants.
Ceramic artist Denise Tennen (denisetennen.com) returns to the Bridgewater with a new collection of works from her Poetry Orb series. Resembling the rocks that are found along the shoreline of Lake Superior, these small, smooth ovoid forms are meant to be held and even caressed as a means of relaxation or as a conduit for meditation.
Birch trees, fields and wetlands are the purview of Mary Welke (marywelke.com) who is a 2020 recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. Focused on the process of nature, her work is notable for a quiet, meditative quality as well as a dense textural surface. Among her pieces currently on display at the Bridgewater is “Crescendo.” Stand close. You may hear the crackle of fire racing across an American prairie.
Let them Eat Cake! You almost imagine the voice of the infamous Marie Antionette emanating from the fantastical collages of Dominique Winders (treslechesgallery.com). Best known for her oversized post-apocalyptic tribal jewelry/sculptures, Winders also creates allegorical assemblages brimming with what she calls “little secrets.” Her biography notes that “Each piece takes the perceiver on a journey of both the future and the past…What would you remember if there was nothing left to remind you?”
Turbulent color and bold, dense textures are the hallmarks of Alison Price,(alisonpricestudios.com) who along with fellow artist Kathleen Krishan co-founded Tres Leches Gallery in the Northrop King building in Northeast Minneapolis. Her unique aesthetic is a perfect complement to the exhibit and includes works from her various series. “Shifting” brings us a bird’s eye view of submarine trenches in the Philippines and the Greenland Seas. The “Purely Structural” series showcases her commitment to maintaining a zero waste studio. Each 12 x 12 piece is a one-of-kind delight and utilizes texture, patina, paint, glass, paper and other extreme mediums to create works that compel and intrigue us.
As we view the works of Price and all of these artists it reminds that even the most common things in nature are meant to be treasured. That we can choose to see only the infinite landscape or an all-encompassing sunset but lose sight of the minute details that are soon lost to time. We’re reminded always of those lines by Joni Mitchell: “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone.”